Trinidad & Tobago: How Former Vision 2020 Compares to Development Plans Abroad

Within Trinidad & Tobago we have an example of 2 successive variations of plans by the PNM (2005-10) and the People’s Partnership (2010-15) with the same broad goal in mind – that of ushering the country into developed country status. The introduction to the Vision 2020 plan states that “many of the developing countries of the world have now embraced the goal of becoming developed nations in their own right”, citing countries like Malaysia, Nigeria, India, Mauritius and Botswana. How do the T&T plans compare to what other developing countries are trying to do? This post will answer that very question by comparing the Vision 2020 plan with the Emerging Senegal Plan (NB website in French) in the West African nation of Senegal.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Index has Senegal helping to bring up the global rear in the 170th spot, falling in the “low human development” category.

Trinidad and Tobago is part of the “high human development” category – the second highest of the 4 categories (the other 2 being “very high” and “medium”) – with its ranking of 64th.


Trinidad & Tobago Senegal

Human Development Index Rank

64 170
Population 1.3 million

14.5 million

Life Expectancy

70.4 66.5
Expected Years of Schooling 12.3 7.9
Murder rate per 100,000 population 28.3 2.8
GDP per capita (US $) $32,180 $2,380
GDP growth (in 2015)  – 0.6% 6.5%
Income share held by lowest 20% 5.5% (very old estimate) 6.1% (in 2011)

Ease of starting a business



Ease of cross-border trade

123rd 130th
Multidimensional Poverty Index 0.007 0.278
Carbon dioxide emissions per capita 37.2 tonnes

0.6 tonnes

Gender Development Index

0.985 0.883
Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 births) 20 47
% of population with easy access to water 95 79
Internet users per 100 population 69.2 21.7
Mobile phones per 100 population 157


(Sources: UNDP, IMF and World Bank reports from 2011 onwards.)


In 2005, arguably at the apex of its time in the Executive, the Patrick Manning-led PNM government launched the Vision 2020 plan with the ambitious stated aim of turning Trinidad and Tobago into a developed country by the year 2020. At that point the government had been in place for 4 years and was overseeing a period of solid economic growth for T&T’s energy-based economy in a context of steadily rising oil prices.

Vision 2020 was broken down into 5 key sub-components:

  1. Competitive business environment.
  2. Innovative people.
  3. Caring society.
  4. Effective governance.
  5. Sound infrastructure and environment.

Given the murder rate, a “caring society” may very well have been what T&T needed most, and continues to need now.

I also remember hearing at a “University of Independence Square” lecture in 2009 that, in addition to what were referred to as the 5 pillars of T&T’s development under the Vision 2020 plan, “enabling competitive exports” was a further area singled out for emphasis to complement the fostering of a competitive local business environment.

The plan was coming along, but then ground to a halt in 2010 when the PNM lost in quasi-1986 fashion to the People’s Partnership coalition. The incoming regime with now former PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar at the helm proceeded to throw the baby out with the bathwater – as incoming regimes tend to do, scrapping Vision 2020, along with other policies ostensibly identifiable with the previous government, such as the contentious OPV issue.

Vision 20 gave way to the Innovation for Lasting Prosperity plan. The idea of key pillars familiar from Vision 2020 was kept on.

The Innovation for Lasting Prosperity plan’s key pillars were as follows:

  1. Crime and Law and Order.
  2. Agriculture and Food Security.
  3. Health Care Services and Hospitals.
  4. Economic Growth & Job Creation.
  5. Competitiveness and Innovation.
  6. Poverty Reduction and Human Capital Development.

Innovation and competitive remained the unifying thread of the 2 plans, the second of which, with its preference for enforcing law and order as opposed to also confronting lawlessness by changing hearts and minds for example, betrays the supposedly more conservative ideological orientation (if indeed political parties in T&T have any ideological orientation) of the conglomeration of parties that put it in motion.

In sum, growing an innovative and competitive job-creating economy while enhancing infrastructure, healthcare, food production and quality of governance and addressing the scourge of crime in society was the path forwarded charted in Trinidad & Tobago over the past decade, albeit with more or less diverging methods.


Emerging Senegal Plan logo

Senegal is the westernmost country in Africa. Home to a population of some 15 million, the country has been a model of stability since gaining its independence in 1960, having had 4 presidents since 1960 and systematic peaceful changes of government mostly alternating between the Socialist and Democratic parties.

Since 2012, the president has been Macky Sall, who campaigned largely on the theme of transparent government while castigating the perceived creeping megalomania and growing personality cult surrounding longtime incumbent Abdoulaye Wade who drew criticism after having a US $27 million statue erected. Does this ring a bell? Reminds one of the criticism levelled against a key figure of T&T’s politics, who led the PNM after George Chambers and before Keith Rowley, hired a spiritual advisor and was accused of building a multi-million dollar church for his personal use.

The main elements of the Senegalese economy are phosphate mining, commercial fishing, agriculture and tourism. The country also is reliant on donor assistance, and is classified by the International Monetary Fund as one of the world’s 60 Low Income Developing Countries (LIDCs). It is considered to be “lower middle income” category by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. For the sake of comparison, Trinidad and Tobago is included in the top category known as “high-income” by the UN. These classifications are based on per capita gross national income.

The 3 Strategic Pillars of the Emerging Senegal Plan:

  1. The structural transformation of the economic base.
  2. Enhancing human capital.
  3. Good governance and the rule of law.

A cursory glance at the 2 T&T plans and one sees the echoes of both Vision 2020 – i.e. that plan’s emphasis on good governance – and Innovation for Lasting Prosperity, with which Emerging Senegal overlaps on the issues of the rule of law / law and order, and human capital.

The 20-year Emerging Senegal Plan is meant to guide Senegal to developed status by 2035. During the ongoing 2014-18 phase one of the plan, 27 projects have been launched and a battery of 17 reforms undertaken with a view to stimulating growth and aiding in the redistribution of national wealth. Some measures have included highway building, improving electricity service, state-funded benefits for poor families, the differently able, the elderly and pensioners and bolstering the healthcare budget, as well as moves to ensure workers are paid fair wages.

Below are some similarities between Vision 2020 and the Emerging Senegal Plan:

The plans’ basic premise:



“Vision 2020 forms the basis for a new approach to planning for the future of Trinidad and Tobago.”


The Emerging Senegal Plan is “new framework of reference” for the country’s development.

“Levels of poverty are too high, and some sections of the population are excluded altogether from the best parts of the economic pie.”


“The fight against inequality and social injustice is central to the president’s political project, as he convinced that politics only has meaning insofar as it properly addresses the correction of disparities.”

Putting the keys to economic prosperity in the hands of citizens:


Vision 2020 seeks “to ensure that every citizen of Trinidad and Tobago is given the opportunity to participate fully and positively in the society and the economy.”

“The overarching aim is to lift populations out of poverty by extending to each citizen autonomy that they will enjoy thanks to their effective inclusion in the country’s economic fabric.”

The role of the citizenry:


“[…] an inclusive process which paid close attention to the voice of the society. This model emphasised a collaborative approach to developing the Vision 2020 Draft National Strategic Plan.”

Emerging Senegal “now incorporates across the board a culture of transparency and accountability, with […] the involvement of all sectors of society in policymaking and citizen scrutiny of the process.”

The plan’s effect on society:


“It is an approach […] involves the forging of deeper and more active partnerships throughout the society.”

“This aspiration towards a better life takes the form of a vision that is one of an emerging Senegal with a united society.”

The plan and the international environment:



“The confluence of globalisation imperatives, the efforts of other countries, […] and the means to respond through increased energy earnings suggest we have a unique opportunity for development.”

Emerging Senegal works by “combining domestic resource mobilization efforts, the support and investment of local and international partners, both private and public, the Emerging Senegal Plan was put together and launched through broad consultation with all involved stakeholders.”

The erstwhile Vision 2020 was given at least one negative review as early as 2008 by its detractors, just under 3 years after being launched. There were, of course, also many commentaries in favouring it. The idea of a possible Vision 2030 plan has been thrown out in recent years by the PNM’s current leadership. At that rate, someone in Senegal must be handing down a judgement on that country’s plan any day now, if they haven’t already.

(Header image: Trinidad & Tobago and Senegal Coats of Arms)


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